Willkie Farr & Gallagher is accelerating its push into Continental Europe after scooping a quartet of partner hires in Paris, Milan and Brussels.
HSD Ernst & Young’s head of insolvency Jean-Dominique Daudier de Cassini is joining Willkie Farr’s highly-rated Paris office with a team of three lawyers, slotting into the firm’s core practices in M&A, private equity, business reorganisation and restructuring.
Also in Paris, Alexandra Bigot, who was formerly a lawyer at Willkie Farr before moving to Lazard, is returning to the firm as a partner in its business reorganisation and restructuring group.
In Brussels, Willkie Farr has kick-started its competition practice by taking on Marc van der Woude,
previously a partner with Nauta Dutilh, and in Milan partner Paolo Barozzi is joining the firm from Carnelutti.
Over the past three and a half years, Willkie Farr has expanded heavily throughout Europe, opening in Milan, Rome and Frankfurt in 2000 and just 18 months later extending into Brussels.
Jack Nusbaum, chairman at Willkie Farr, said that the firm’s European drive has grown out of its Paris group. “It was a push from Paris that we should have an office in every major financial centre,” he said. While most of Europe is still in build-out, Europe contributed between 10 and 15 per cent of the firm’s $320m (£203.6m) overall turnover for 2002, most of it derived from Paris.
Although Continental Europe is powering ahead, Nusbaum said the firm was having a rethink of its UK office. “We talk about London constantly,” he said. “What’s required is a different critical mass. We thought we could take a couple of superstars and build a practice around them – but that doesn’t work.”
As a result the firm would consider either taking a large team or merging with a small firm, although Nusbaum said there were no talks going on at the moment.